One Monk of the Order of Saint Benedict

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The Word of God and the Body of God reveal each other -- the homily worships both.

May 13, 2006

For the Fifth Sunday of Easter

John 15:1-8
Acts 9:26-31
1 Jn. 3:18-24

Today in his Gospel, our Lord speaks about spiritual LIFE and spiritual GROWTH.
He says his Father will cut off his unproductive branches— unproductive Christians— and these will go into a fire and be burned.
That is frightening.
We usually think “hellfire” is for those who do EVIL.
However, today the Lord says burning in fire is for those who simply do NOTHING, those who bear no fruit.
It is not enough for us to belong to the vine of the Church, not enough to say, “I am a Christian,” and not enough to call Jesus “my Lord and savior.”
No.
Today in his Gospel, the Lord tells us, “Bear fruit or be burnt in fire.”
He does not tell us these things just to scare us.
He tells us these things because he wants to see us arrive at true joy.
Right after today’s Gospel passage, the Lord goes on to add:
These things I have spoken to you
that MY JOY
may be IN YOU,
and that YOUR JOY
may be FULL.

What is it, then, to grow and bear fruit, so that we are not caught off guard doing nothing, but work towards receiving the FULL JOY of GOD HIMSELF?
The Lord begins to explain that today in this Gospel.
Our heavenly Father is the vine grower.
Christ is the vine.
We are the branches of Christ.
Unless we as branches stay on Christ the vine, we can do nothing and we bear no fruit.
The Father cuts off from Christ every branch that does not bear fruit.
The Father also trims and shapes each branch that DOES bear fruit so that it bears MORE fruit.
With the teaching of Christ as his pruning shears, the Father trims and shapes us to grow rightly and bear plenty of good fruit.
The teaching of Christ aims at cutting out of our lives whatever is not healthy, not true or not good.
This means that sometimes the teaching of Christ is going to wound us— just for a time— like a pruning knife or shears, so that we grow into a better shape, grow in a better direction, grow stronger, and bear good fruit in plenty.
The Father’s pruning knife, his shears, is the teaching of Christ.
We present ourselves for the trimming and shaping by being obedient to Christ.
After the pruning, what is it, then, to grow and to bear fruit?
We learn what growth and fruitfulness are when we read what follows today’s Gospel.
Remain in my love.
If you keep my COMMANDMENTS,
you will remain in my love,
just as I have kept my Father’s COMMANDMENTS
and remain in his love.
I have told you this so that my joy may be in you
and your joy might be complete.

We heard the same thing in the First Letter of Saint John today.
Those who keep his commandments remain in him and he in them.

Growth and fruitfulness come from remaining in Christ’s love.
Remaining in Christ’s love comes from keeping his commandments, just as Christ keeps the commandments of his Father and so remains in the Father’s love.
What are those commandments?
Christ goes on to say.
This is my commandment:
love one another as I love you.
No one has greater love than this:
to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

Love grows, and love bears fruit.
However, the great love that Christ commands is not a mere a feeling, thought or idea.
No one has greater love than this:
to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

The great love that Christ commands is self-sacrifice for the good of others. [Our mothers show us that beginning with pregnancy and especially in the act of giving birth, and then throughout our lives. Happy day to all you who are mothers!]
Self-sacrificing love is not a mere a feeling or a thought.
Self-sacrifice is a choice and an action.
Self-sacrificing love avoids the fire by presenting itself to be cut, trimmed and shaped by the knife of the Gospel.
Christ says:
I have told you this so that my joy may be in you
and your joy might be complete.

In his Eucharist, Christ fulfills for us his own joy-giving commandment of self-sacrificing love.
His Eucharist is his choice and his action of self-sacrifice in his real flesh and blood.
This is no mere feeling or idea.
In his flesh and blood, Christ lays down his life and takes up the resurrection for his friends as well as his enemies.
In this he shows that his is the greatest love of all.
If we wish to remain in his all-surpassing love, and not have the Father cut us off to be thrown into fire, then we must honestly live out the “Amen” we speak when we dare to eat the Eucharistic covenant of Christ’s flesh and blood.
We must keep the covenant commandment of his example: battling to the death against sin, and rising constantly to holiness by living for Christ.
Here in his Eucharistic covenant, Christ has cut himself open for us.

UT IN OMNIBUS GLORIFICETUR DEUS
That God Be Glorified in All







2 Comments:

Anonymous Bob Farrell said...

I've been relying on liturgy.slu.edu in forming my weekly classes for Sunday liturgy. I usually give these lessons on Wednesday and Thursday.

How early do you write your Sunday homilies? If you ever have them done by Tuesday, would you be able to shoot me a copy?

In the meantime, would it be okay for me to start archiving them to use during the next cycle?

6:21 PM  
Blogger Father Stephanos, O.S.B. said...

I don't complete my homilies until Saturday morning.

You can archive as you wish.

God bless you.

8:04 PM  

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